The Revd Canon Joseph P. Cassidy, BA, MA, CertComm,
STB, MDiv, STL, PhD, DTh, FRAI, FRSA, FICPD
Joseph (Joe) Cassidy is Principal of St Chad’s College, Durham -- an independent college recognised by the University of Durham. An Anglican priest, he is a non-residentiary Canon of Durham Cathedral and a member of the Cathedral's Council.
Born in Westmount, Quebec, in 1954, Dr Cassidy grew up in the suburbs of Montreal, attending St Thomas High School in Pointe Claire from 1967-71. In addition to his academic interests in high school, he was on the wrestling, swimming and track teams, having held (for a time) the provincial record for the 100 metre backstroke. Outside of school, he was an avid skier and played on municipal hockey, baseball, and soccer teams.
During his teen years, he spent much of his time working in electronics, becoming an amateur radio (ham radio) operator (VE2BSZ, and then VE2QG, YN1QG and 6Y5QG), earning his advanced certificate in his early teens. He was a founding member of the Westminster Amateur Radio School, where he eventually taught; and the West Island Radio Club, where he served as Treasurer. His interest in electronics expanded to include building microcomputers, as they were being developed in the early 70s: he soecialised in machine language and assembly language programming.
College and University
Cassidy began collegiate studies in 1971, studying health sciences for a year and then physics (pre-engineering) for a further year at John Abbott College, in Ste- Anne de Bellevue. During that time, he underwent basic military training with the Royal Twenty-Second Regiment (the Vandoos) in Valcartier, as part of the Canadian government's summer employment programme.
After John Abbott College, he switched disciplines and won the 'Match of the Minds' four-year scholarship to study Theology at Loyola College in Montreal (which was to become Concordia University). During his time at Loyola, he lived for a year (as a postulant) with the French-speaking Redemptorist community at Notre Dame des Neiges, teaching part-time at Loyola High School. He graduated with a first class honours BA in Theological Studies from Loyola and was designated a 'Loyola Scholar'.
During this time, he also became a member of Foi et Partager, a Quebec group inspired by Jean Vanier, and worked on social development projects in the Little Burgundy area of Montreal. He was also an active member of the Grape and Lettuce Boycott Committee of Montreal, affiliated with Cesar Chavez 's work in California and throughout the US. After graduation, he moved to Toronto and worked at the Good Shepherd Refuge, a hostel for street people, in preparation for entering the Redemptorist novitiate in 1976, where he stayed for several months, before applying to join the Jesuits instead. Having to take a year out between joining the two orders, Cassidy worked on placement at the Toronto East General Hospital before heading out west to Alberta to work as a guide in the Rockies.
Outside of university, Cassidy maintained strong sporting interests, spending much of his spare time sailing (as a member of the Beaconsfield Yacht Club), backpacking and mountain climbing (chiefly in the Adirondacks and the Canadian Rockies, where he was a member of the Adirondack Mountain Club and of the Alpine Club of Canada). He especially enjoyed mixing cross-country skiing and winter camping (in temperatures of less than -40 degrees) around Lake Placid, New York -- an area his family still frequents.
Cassidy eventually joined the Jesuits in 1977. During his two years as a novice, chiefly at Guelph, Ontario, he spent six months working on Native Reserves near Cornwall and in Northern Ontario and was assigned to three-month placements in several long-term care facilities and in a maximum security psychiatric prison.
After taking vows in 1979, he was sent to the University of Detroit to study philosophy, where he earned an MA in Philosophy (gaining a perfect 4.0 GPA). He also earned a Certificate in Communication Arts at Loyola University of the South. As part of his Jesuit training, he was sent to teach Physics, English and Religion at Gonzaga Regional High School in Newfoundland for two years, where he introduced computer science to the provincial curriculum and founded the school's volunteer programme (which is still running decades later). Cassidy also developed scheduling software for the new IBM PCs (which were just being launched): these programs were used for many years in high schools in Newfoundland and Quebec. The programs were unique in their use of hard drives as virtual memory which enabled the scheduling programs to construct the large complex arrays needed to construct timetables for a thousand students at once (the trick was borrowed from the era of magnetic tapes).
After Newfoundland, he began further theological studies at Regis College, University of Toronto. After his first year, he spent time in West Kingston Jamaica -- fulfilling the Jesuit requirement that all Jesuits have significant experience of the developing world.
During this theological studies he was torn between his social conscience and his sense of vocation to the priesthood, and he decided to take a year out from studies to explore radical politics. He spent the better part of a year in Nicaragua, working as a researcher at the Instituto Nicaraguense de investigaciones economicas y sociales, helping construct input-output models of the Nicaraguan economy and, perhaps more importantly, living in the local Jesuit community that included the then Education Minister, Fernando Cardenal and the Economist Xabier Gorostiaga. He returned to Toronto and resumed his studies at Regis College, where he was also an Associate of the Jesuit Centre for Social Faith and Justice. He spent his diaconal year helping at St Philip the Apostle Parish in Pickering, Ontario, and he graduated from Regis with a Bachelor of Sacred Theology (summa cum laude) and from the University of Toronto with a Master of Divinity (first class honours).
After ordination to the priesthood, he became a member of the retreat team at Loyola House, Guelph, Canada, where, among other things, he directed thirty-day retreats. He transferred to Montreal to care for an ailing parent, becoming Co-Director of the Ignatian Centre, Montreal, and Visiting Professor at Concordia University. He helped set up the Diocesan Poverty Commission and taught courses in the history of spirituality and social ethics.
After the death of his father, Cassidy moved to Ottawa, where he earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) summa cum laude from St Paul University, focusing on social ethics, while teaching ethics part-time for that University. He continued doctoral studies in Ottawa, and a number of years later he finished his PhD in Ethics from the University of Ottawa, where his thesis on the Ethics of Bernard Lonergan was awarded the Graduate School’s Gold Medal (Prix de l’École). He was also awarded a Doctorate of Theology in 1996 by St Paul University.
After the Jesuits
Cassidy left the Jesuits in 1990 and moved to Toronto to became Director of Research and Publications at a small NGO in Toronto -- the Latin American Working Group (LAWG) -- where he edited Central America Update, a monthly journal/newsletter providing news and analysis on Central America.
He moved to England in 1992, where he was appointed Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Spirituality, LSU/New College, University of Southampton (1992-7). In Southampton he was Course Director, University of Southampton joint honours BA (Philosophy and Theology); and member of College Pastoral Team, College Academic Board, College Academic Standards Committee, Joint Negotiating Committee.
He became an Anglican in 1993, was licensed as a priest in 1996, working in the Salisbury diocese as an Assistant Curate at two parishes, St Martin's and St Andrew's, Laverstock.
In 1997, he was appointed Principal of St Chad's College, where he worked to turn the College around after a period of some strife. He was a university proctor at the Church of England’s General Synod from 1999-2005 and has been a non-residentiary Canon of Durham Cathedral since 2001. He was External Examiner, Oxford University (1998-2000) and External Examiner, Oxford Brookes University (2000-2). He has been a member of a number of church panels and committees: Moderator of Readers, Durham Diocese, 2000-2002; Chair, Panel of Moderators, Ministry Division C of E; Member, Quality in Formation Committee, Ministry Division, C of E. In addition to a number of college-related trusteeships, he is a trustee of the RSCM and of SPCK.
Over the years Cassidy has given hundreds of workshops and retreats, chiefly on ethics, social justice issues and on the Gospel of Luke. Being a full-time administrator for many years, he has not been a prolific writer, but he has nonetheless edited several journals and written on economics, social ethics and spirituality.
Cassidy is married to Dr Gillian M. Skinner, an English Literature Lecturer at Durham University. They have three children and live in Durham, England for most of the year. They try to spend a month each summer at Crystal Beach, Ontario, where Cassidy helps out at All Saints Church in Ridgeway and St John's Church in Ridgemount.
‘Radical Anglicanism.’ Hope of Things to Come: Anglicanism and the Future. Mark D. Chapman, editor. London: Mobray/Continuum, 2010.
‘Macroeconomic Dynamics: What to do when the economy slows down.’ The Golden Lecture, The Worshipful Company of Haberdashers, London, 2009.
‘An Introduction to Bernard Lonergan.’ Foundation (Vol. III, No.1, 2006), pp. 1-17.
‘Anglican Authority.’ Foundation (Vol. II, No. 1, 2005), pp. 1-14.
‘Contemporary Spiritualities.’ Lecture Series, Wimborne Minster, Dorset, November 1996.